Getting Specialist Help From A Trained Professional
If you struggle with the symptoms of chemo brain, you might be interested in getting help from a trained professional. Cognitive behavioural therapy is a type of talking therapy that some people find useful. It can support you to adapt the way you think about things and how you act. Memory and attention adaption training is a type of CBT developed specifically to help people affected by chemo brain. It focuses on finding different ways to manage your difficulties. Other methods of CBT use brain training techniques, which focus on challenging your brain and practising skills like using your memory. Ask your medical team for more information if youre interested in such techniques.
I had chemo brain but I didn’t know what it was at the time. After 2 years, I asked my haematologist about it. He said it was chemo brain and that I was unfortunate in that it was taking longer for mine to resolve than for most people, though it improved each year. I did really easy crosswords and Sudokus to help me feel I was achieving something, and in time, I got back to doing harder ones.
Below are some questions people often ask about chemo brain and lymphoma. Speak to your medical team for advice specific to your situation.
Is Chemo Brain Permanent
Chemo brain may resolve on its own a few months after you finish chemotherapy, or it might stretch on for years, if left untreated. Chemo brain has been studied the most in breast cancer survivors. We dont know if theyre more likely to get it, or if it simply appears that way because of the number of studies done on that patient population.
If your cognitive problems and other symptoms persist six months after you stop chemotherapy, you may want to seek treatment. If you still have chemo brain twelve months after ending cancer treatment, we strongly recommend seeking medical assistance. You can always start treatment for chemo brain earlier if youre eager to feel better sooner.
While youre waiting, we recommend that you try some at-home strategies . If youre checking all the boxes and its still not helping, you may want to come in for treatment sooner than twelve months out.
If youre relying on compensatory behaviors , thats a sign of functional brain change its not healthy to rely on coping mechanisms indefinitely. Its better to receive treatment and get your brain working better. Different types of chemotherapy have different average recovery times for chemo brain, so you can ask your doctor about your specific situation.
Looking For Other Treatments
You might find information about a treatment that you think is new, or could be offered to you. You should take that information to your specialist. You can talk it through with them and find out if it is relevant for your situation.
Some people might consider going abroad for treatment. It is important to discuss this with your doctor. It might be that a particular treatment is not suitable for you, or it might be available in the UK.
Treatment overseas can be a big commitment. It can be expensive and involve time away from home and family and friends.
You can also consider joining a clinical trial. Go to Cancer Research UKs clinical trials database if you are looking for a trial for brain and spinal cord tumours in the UK. You need to talk to your specialist if there are any trials that you think you might be able to take part in.
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Can Cancer Go Away On Its Own Without Treatment
A common question that many people ask is Can cancer go away on its own?. While the question deserves a clear explanation, many times the answer is anything but that. When it comes to cancer, information is usually given from either an overly positive or negative perspective. Very rarely does information come from an unbiased source. And this question is not any different. While this question only has one answer, the way it is presented and explained can be interpreted in many different ways. So as always, we will let the facts speak for themselves and provide you with the best unbiased cancer information available.
How Long Does Chemo Brain Last
For many people, chemo brain usually gets better over time though for some people the effects last much longer. Symptoms can vary from day-to-day, and at different times of the day. They are usually worse when youre tired or busy. If youre having treatment, the symptoms might be different at different times in your treatment cycle.
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What Else Can I Do
Problems with memory and concentration can be very frustrating. While there may not be confirmed treatments at this time, there are things you can do to reduce the impact these problems have on your everyday life. Try these tips:
- Minimize distractions when you need to complete tasks that require concentration.
- Use a daily organizer to help you remember appointments.
- Keep a journal of daily events and activities.
- Carry a notebook, and use it to write down important information that you want to remember.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Manage stress.
Living With Cognitive Changes
How to Manage Cognitive Changes
- Take prescribed medication as prescribed by writing down the time and date when you take the medication, taking the medication at the same time every day, using a medication reminder or pill dispenser or asking someone to help you keep track, if necessary.
- Avoid dangerous activities if you are alone, such as cooking, using tools that could cause injury, driving and traveling to unfamiliar places.
- Ask your family to watch for safety issues.
- Get plenty of rest and sleep.
- Use a health journal to communicate symptoms and side effects of medicine with your health care team.
- Talk with your family and an attorney about legal documents you may need.
Whether cognitive changes will improve or be permanent depends on their cause. Acute cognitive changes that occur because of certain medicines often improve when you stop taking the medicine. Chronic changes are often not reversible. However, some medications may enhance cognitive function, or there may be some improvement if the cause of the problems can be corrected.
Correa, D.D. . Neurocognitive function in brain tumors. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep 3 232-239.
Calabrese, P., & Schlegel, U. . Neurotoxicity of treatment. Resent Results in Cancer Research, 171: 165-174.
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How Chemotherapy Affects Your Body After Treatment
Some side effects of chemotherapy only happen while you’re having treatment and disappear quickly after it’s over. But others can linger for months or years or may never completely go away.
Watch out for signs of chemo’s long-term changes, and let your doctor know how you feel. Your doctor can suggest ways to manage your symptoms.
Can Cognitive Deficits Be Treated
At this time, there are no proven treatments for cognitive deficits associated with chemotherapy. However, research is ongoing to find a treatment that may help relieve this side effect.
Erythropoietin, a chemical produced by the body that stimulates the production of red blood cells, may protect cells in the brain from the damaging effects of chemotherapy. Researchers from the US Oncology trials group studied the effect of erythropoietin compared to placebo on cognitive function in 88 patients receiving chemotherapy. While there were no differences in cognitive function at 6 months after chemotherapy, both groups experienced improvement in performance compared to the first time they took the test. The researchers think this may be due to a practice effect, which means the participants may have learned from the first time they were tested.
Some researchers have also suggested that the herbs Gingko biloba and ginseng can improve cognition and mood and the North Central Cancer Treatment Group is conducting a randomized placebo-controlled trial testing the effects of Gingko biloba on cognitive function in patients with early-stage breast cancer receiving adjuvant chemotherapy. Also, behavioral interventions may provide some benefit.
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Chemo Brain Linked To Long
Chemo brain appears to correlate with long-term changes in the brains white matter, according to the results of a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Patients undergoing chemotherapy have long complained of a phenomenon referred to as chemo brain. Chemo brain refers to changes in cognitive function, such as loss of memory and inability to think clearly or perform some daily functions. Thus far, researchers have not been able to pinpoint the cause of chemo brain, but studies are ongoing to evaluate brain structure and function in order to better understand the effects of chemotherapy on the brain.
Researchers performed a controlled observational cohort study in order to evaluate cerebral white matter integrity before and after chemotherapy. The small study included 34 younger premenopausal women with early stage breast cancer who were exposed to chemotherapy, 16 patients who were not exposed to chemotherapy, and 19 age-matched healthy controls.
The women exposed to chemotherapy underwent cognitive testing and magnetic resonance diffusion tensor imaging prior to beginning chemotherapy and again 3 to 4 months after treatment. The women in the other two groups underwent the same assessment at matched intervals.
Treatment Of Chemo Brain
Treatments for chemo brain may include:
- Cognitive rehabilitation: This might be part of a cancer rehabilitation program. It includes activities to improve brain function such as learning how the brain works and ways to take in new information and performing new tasks doing some activities over and over that become harder with time and using tools to help stay organized such as planners or diaries.
- Exercise: Exercise can improve your thinking and ability to focus. Activities such as gardening, caring for pets, or walking, can help improve your attention and concentration levels.
- Meditation: Meditation can help improve brain function by increasing your focus and awareness.
Talk to your cancer care team about these treatment suggestions and other options they may recommend to help you cope with any cognitive problems.
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A Lack Of Understanding By Others
Meantime, cancer survivors struggling with chemo brain like Esther Liss-Turner, 75, wish others understood their condition.
Liss-Turner, a retired New York City teacher, has been living with cancer since being diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in 1993. The disease is now in her bones and the soft tissue of her breast. Her mild symptoms of chemo brain have worsened in recent years.
I go into a room and cant remember why I came in, I forget the names of things or I lose my words, Liss-Turner says. It annoys her when people laugh it off, saying, Well, were not as young as we used to be. That, she says, minimizes the reality of what chemo brain is like.
They would have to be in my shoes to know just how upsetting it can be, Liss-Turner says.
She finds that walking her dog several times a day has helped increase her mental sharpness.
Older cancer patients, who are potentially at higher risk of chemo brain because they have less brain reserve can benefit from having pre-existing deficits identified through neurocognitive testing.
This can help distinguish between normal, age-related cognitive changes and those resulting from cancer treatment. Its also useful for planning coping strategies and choosing remediation techniques.
If Your Brain Tumour Can’t Be Cured
Some brain tumours grow very slowly and cannot be cured. Depending on your age at diagnosis, the tumour may eventually cause your death. Or you may live a full life and die from something else. It will depend on your tumour type, where it is in the brain, and how it responds to treatment.
Brain tumours can also be fast growing and come back despite treatment.
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Chemo Brain Caused By Malfunction In Three Types Of Brain Cells
Three types of cells in the brains white matter show interwoven problems during the cognitive dysfunction that follows treatment with the cancer drug methotrexate, Stanford neuroscientists have found.
Michelle Monje and her colleagues found that the chemotherapy drug methotrexate can affect three major types of brain cells, resulting in a phenomenon known as “chemo brain.”Steve Fisch
More than half of cancer survivors suffer from cognitive impairment from chemotherapy that lingers for months or years after the cancer is gone. In a new study explaining the cellular mechanisms behind this condition, scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have demonstrated that a widely used chemotherapy drug, methotrexate, causes a complex set of problems in three major cell types within the brains white matter.
The study, which was published online Dec. 6 in Cell, also identifies a potential remedy. A drug now in clinical trials for other indications reversed symptoms of chemo brain, as the condition is known, in a mouse model, the researchers found.
Its wonderful that theyre alive, but their quality of life is really suffering, said the studys lead author, Erin Gibson, PhD, a research scientist at Stanford. If we can do anything to improve that, there is a huge population that could benefit.
Chemo brain is especially severe in childhood cancer patients, Monje added, and children have the most to gain from better remedies.
Choosing Where To Die
There are many options to consider when thinking about where you wish to spend the last weeks of your life.
You might feel safer being in hospital. You may want the reassurance of knowing there are doctors and nurses nearby.
Hospices look after people who are no longer having active treatment aimed at curing them. But you have treatment to control symptoms and keep you comfortable. There is 24 hour nursing care. A local GP and palliative care specialist provide the medical care. Hospices aim to keep people well for as long as possible.
You can go into a hospice for a few days if you have a problem that they can help sort out. Then you can go home again. You can also use the hospice for respite care, to give your family a break if they become very tired looking after you. Many hospices also have day centres.
If you choose, you can be looked after at home. You might be able to be at home all of the time. It depends on your circumstances. For example, the layout of your house and if there is anyone to help look after you. It might need a bit of thought and planning.
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What Causes Forgetfulness And An Inability To Concentrate
Research has demonstrated that chemotherapy can have a negative impact on cognitive functioning. Long-term cancer survivors who had received chemotherapy scored significantly lower on neuropsychologic tests, particularly in the area of verbal memory, compared with those treated with local therapy only . The patients who received chemotherapy also reported greater problems with working memory and were more likely to score among the lowest on the Neuropsychological Performance Index. Furthermore, some survivors may experience long-term cognitive deficits associated with systemic chemotherapy.
The way in which chemotherapy causes cognitive deficits is not clear at this time. It may be related to anemia or a direct effect of chemotherapy on brain function. Your problems with memory and concentration may improve once you complete your chemotherapy but there is also a possibility that these will be long-term problems.
Other factors that contribute to memory and concentration problems include:
- Mental and emotional stress of coping with cancer
Worse Odds Of Cancer Disappearing
Individual odds for experiencing a spontaneous regression can be drastically different then the 1 in 100,000 estimate. First, the assumption is that no treatment was used to produce the cancer regression in the first place. This in most cases cant be verified. Cancer patients can change eating habits, life styles, supplements, etc, all of which can be possible causes of cancer regressions but cant be properly linked. And if these things caused the regression, these occurrences technically cant be counted as true spontaneous regressions. Therefore, the numbers used to produce the initial estimate of 1 in 100,000 can be far worse in reality.
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Chemo Brain Starts During Cancer’s Progression Not Just After Chemotherapy
- Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care
- The memory and thinking problems experienced by cancer survivors, known as ‘chemo brain’ or ‘chemo fog,’ are not just the result of chemotherapy treatment, they may start as tumors form and develop, suggests a new study. Researchers found that female mice with a form of breast cancer demonstrated impaired performance on learning and memory tests before chemotherapy drugs were administered.
The memory and thinking problems experienced by cancer survivors, known as “chemo brain” or “chemo fog,” are not just the result of chemotherapy treatment, they may start as tumors form and develop, suggests a Baycrest-led study.
Researchers found that female mice with a form of breast cancer demonstrated impaired performance on learning and memory tests before chemotherapy drugs were administered, according to recent findings published in the journal Neuroscience.
“Our work isolated that the cancer is responsible for some of the memory and thinking complaints experienced by cancer survivors, and that drug therapy adds to the problem,” says Dr. Gordon Winocur, lead author on the study, senior scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute and psychology professor at Trent University and the University of Toronto. “Both factors independently affect brain function in different ways, which can lead to the development of other psychological disturbances, such as anxiety and depression.”